Sunday 31 August 2008

I am standing on the seashore

I am standing on the seashore,
A ship sails and spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
And starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says “ she is gone”.
Gone where?
Gone from my sight that is all.
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spurs, as she was when I saw her,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size, the total loss of sight is in me not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says “She is gone”
There are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up the glad shout.
“here she comes.”
And that is DYING.


Rest in peace, Goldy.


Saturday 30 August 2008

More on Being Three

When you're three, you have different priorities. The adults around you might want to take photographs of each other, of you, or even, inexplicably, of the noisy baby they drag everywhere with them. Given their location in a restaurant, they might even want to take pictures of a particularly fine meal. But when you're three, this is what you see:

When you're grown up, flying to Italy for a week in the sun means that sometimes you get a bit annoyed when this happens.But when you're three, it's an opportunity. The grown ups might not be terribly excited by your beautiful ballet dance. And that silly cousin might be more concerned about keeping the woof dog in her sight at all time just incase it does something scary like fall asleep, pant, or twitch an ear
Thankfully though, when you're three, your six year old cousin becomes the most discerning audience you could wish forEven if she does keep her eyes closed.

Friday 29 August 2008

Being Three

It's a busy age to be, three.

Bits of the world are familiar enough that they exist only to be argued about (bedtimes, eating meals at mealtimes, sitting still in the car, and other rules invented by adults solely to drive poor children crazy).

And so much of it is completely new and fresh and exciting.

Sitting still on an aeroplane might be hugely boring, but a sheet of stickers can while away the hours. Little Fish's cousin Minnow (A junior Birdy Beamy) has a new mission in life. After generously distributing her stickers across the rows and around family and strangers, she sat pensively for a minute before declaring "there are a lot of people in other parts of the world who don't have any stickers at all". Indeed there are. And if, in 15 years' time you see that Operation Christmas Child has been replaced by Operation Stickered Child you'll know who to blame thank.

Grown ups are boring. We sit and sip aperitifs as the sun sets. We want to appreciate the view, and yet we've seen thousands of sunsets before.

But when you're three, the priority is to play, play play.

We grown ups drive to Lake Trasimeno, then take a boat out to an island, and then want to walk around appreciating yet more beautiful views.
Minnow and Little Fish found the swings much more fun. We spent twelve hours in transit to get to Umbria (with another couple of days' travelling for the Birdy Beales to get down from their end of the country to ours before we even left), and then another hour or so getting to our island. Another hour lost sitting eating lunch, a meal Minnow at least is perfectly happy to skip. And yet the girls would have been just as happy with the swings in our local park.

Setting aside the fact that it's been too wet to use our local swings for weeks, was it worth dragging the girls so far for something they could just as easily do at home? I like to think it probably was; I have great memories of shared family holidays when I was a similar age. Admittedly it isn't the views and the important bits I remember, but the joy of making sand houses for frogs with my aunt; having to use strange holes in the ground in restaurants and cafes (toilets "a la turque"); and lying in tents in thunderstorms. Running up and down steep staircases with cousins; long, interminably long lunches where we children snacked on bread and potatoes as the adults around us fed their more sophisticated pallets; and falling asleep listening to people talking in different languages Small things, but still sweet memories. It was just a pair of rusty swings to us, just another thing to negotiate the children away from when the more adult adults were getting fretful for a change of scene, but maybe it'll be a nice memory for the girls as they get older. Maybe it won't, but they enjoyed it anyway.

More villages to explore, more winding streets, and everywhere smiling locals chattering to the baby and admiring the girls.
And everywhere an ancient history. We boring adults enjoyed the frescoes, the painted ceilings, the ancient plaques and monuments. Little Fish and Minnow enjoyed the echoes.
It's fun being three.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Joy in the journey?

A morning flight, 9.20. Reasonably civilised; we live about an hour and a quarter from the airport. Standard check in for an EU flight is an hour in advance, giving a departure time of 7AM. Well yes, it is; until you factor in the extra hour for disabled passengers. And the fact that we take at least a hour to get up and moving in the morning. So my alarm went off at 4.20, and fortified with coffee, the day began.

We were up and fully loaded by 6, and got to the airport for 7.20. Having booked valet parking, we drove up to the stand and were told we had instead booked cheap valet parking; instead of simply driving up and handing over our keys, we needed to keep circling the departures drop off point until someone waving a clipboard jumped out in front of us. Twenty minutes later, with 7 circuits of the airport and three rather fraught phonecalls in which we were repeatedly assured that there was no record of our booking, a man leapt out and flagged us down.

Ninety minutes later we were finally through the "fast" check in and security queues, arriving at the gate approximately 3mins 17 seconds before our flight boarded. So much for the planned airport breakfast (although the portable almond croissants were reasonably tasty).

I suppose the plane delay was inevitable; thankfully it was only a short one and soon we were flying across France and then the Swiss alps on the way to Italy. Little Fish enjoyed the airline food whilst the rest of us were rather less enthusiastic about breakfast in a bun.
Once we got to Rome, we sat as the rest of the passengers de-planed. We then sat some more, as the flight attendants attempted to find the girls' wheelchairs. And then we sat some more again. And a little more. We had an awkward interlude when a Romanian steward mistook a lighthearted request for a cocktail for an invitation to perform a striptease (only on BA folks!), and then an angrier interlude when finally the admission came that the girls' chairs had been sent through to baggage claim and would not be at the gate for us at all.

Alternative wheelchairs were located, together with the world's most reluctant pushers. Mog cannot sit in an ordinary wheelchair, and I could not possibly carry her all the way through the airport, so I sat in the airport wheelchair with her on my lap, whilst the slowest ever wheelchair pusher grunted and moaned and stopped every two minutes to take a phonecall. Meanwhile Little Fish screamed and tantrummed her own way through the airport in Grannie's arms. Nothing like telling the world we had arrived.

Our pusher was so slow that I ended up scooting the wheelchair myself with my feet whilst wrestling with a giggling Mog, who was most entertained by the sight of her sister screeching. I would push myself perhaps 2 yards, then the pusher would catch up, grab hold of my handlebars and reluctantly push for another 10 yards, before stopping to take another call or to shout at one of the other baggage handlers in a plea for assistance. Meanwhile the rest of the family had gone on through security to baggage claim where they thankfully located our cases and the baby's buggy. Little Fish's wheelchair was discovered careening merrily around the carousel, and I sat with Mog on my lap, waiting for hers which was also supposed to be waiting for us.

No wheelchair.

No wheelchair.

No staff, and no wheelchair.

Eventually someone says the wheelchair is definitely in a particular place, but it is a place where they are not allowed to go. This place is inspected, no wheelchair.

The entire Beamy clan are now assembled, all bags at the ready, one small tired screaming baby, two happily tired three year olds, one six year old writhing in my lap, two brothers, one sister, two sisters-in-law, and the matriarch and patriarch, all waiting for one small wheelchair before we can go on a car hunt.

Eventually Mum takes matters into her own hands, summons up her A level Italian, and strides forth across the airport where, in a small cupboard behind a door, she locates one slightly battered wheelchair. Cheers, cheers.

On to the car hire place, where for reasons best known to someone other than myself, two cars have been hired from different companies operating out of different parts of the airport. Still, another hour later and we are finally ready to load up and test the drivers' mettle on the Roma equivalent of the M25.

Middle Beamy the Birder together with wife and two children take the smaller vehicle, Beamies Senior, the wheeled Beamies and Minor Beamy the student and Fiancee take the minibus. We pack ourselves, our luggage and random assorted wheelchairs into the space available and set off for the two hour drive to our holiday house.

Three and a half hours later, after miles of bumpy road and many wrong turnings, we finally pour ourselves out of the car at La Serena. The sun is setting as we arrive, and we begin to breathe again whilst drinking in the view.
A quick drink on the terrace
as we discover that the Birding Beamies arrived a good 40 minutes before us, and we are refreshed and ready to begin the unpacking.

The girls are helped to a quick tea of egg on toast, and then shuffled into bed
in our luxury suite. It's bigger than it looks and the bathroom has to be the largest wetroom I've ever seen in a mainstream (i.e. not specifically and solely catering to travellers with disabilites) holiday house. Wonderful.

A welcome shower and a change, and I am ready to join the others back on the terrace for our evening meal. Derek, our host for the week, is an excellent cook and we enjoy a delicious meal of local pork followed by tiramisu as the sun finally slips over the mountains and darkness falls.

As the moon rises, it is huge, and a tree is silhouetted by it for a few moments. I attempt to get a picture, but the Birding Beales are in the way.
A good end to the day though. Whoever it was who said that "it is better to travel than to arrive" has clearly never visited La Serena, and has very definitely never travelled with small children in tow!


Wednesday 27 August 2008

Home again

We're home. 273 photos to sift through, so that won't be happening tonight. Two tired girls happily installed in their own beds again. One beautiful week with family.

One plate of fish and chips, provided by Dad in an end of holiday we'll get to the supermarket tomorrow kind of a fashion. Nicely ruined by yours truly getting overexcited with the vinegar bottle and forgetting it didn't have a sprinkler. Ah well, they're taste. Just rather more piquant than I was planning!

Proper updates tomorrow, just thought I'd pop in to say a quick hello.


Tuesday 19 August 2008

Pit stop

One more wet strike, one more soggy tent sitting in my parents' house dripping gently, one van smelling of rain and mud.
Seven loads of washing steaming gently in every available nook and cranny.

Two tired children.
Lots of good memories.
One mountain of camping equipment waiting to be filed away somewhere.
One lesser mountain of smarter clothing etcetera needing to be sorted into suitcases.

A small heap of medications all requiring clear ziplock bags.

One ridiculously early start tomorrow.

Have I forgotten anything?
( kindly ignore the spelling mistakes; old envelopes do not have spellcheck capabilities)


Saturday 16 August 2008

Two weddings, a bunch of other stuff, and a funeral.

One year ago today Trina talked me into starting my own blog. I started with this story, a fairly typical "oopsy" in our lives.

Just a couple of weeks later my eldest daughter had an accident and then died, and what I had originally intended to be a light-hearted funny look at older events from my life as a fostercarer became something a little deeper. I learned about the elbow polishers, who persist even today.

And then we had a normal sort of a year for us really - which I suppose could be considered extraordinary by other people's standards. Hospital stays, illnesses, operations, appointments made and cancelled. Holidays, camping, Florida, boat trips, garden concerts, cooking, all sorts.

I posted a recipe for Toblerone Brownies, which led to one of the most popular search terms for this blog "is Toblerone suitable for vegetarians" and which led to many vegetarian chocolate lovers being sent to view a slab of raw meat. Sorry about that.

Our builder worked on. And off. And on. And off. And on. And off, but still not finished.

Little Fish spoke her first sentence. We had our day in court.

Mog's mother wrote a book. We were on television. And had our day in court too.

I got into gardening.

I'm writing this in advance as on the day it posts we'll be camping again. And at a wedding. And also at a large meet up for families of children with special needs. Yes, all on the same day - should be interesting if nothing else.

This isn't exactly the life I was picturing 12 months ago; there's a child missing from the reality who was very present in the picture. I was imagining that by this time, she'd be settled properly in her new home and would be coming on summer holidays with us, dropping in for visits, effectively living the student life she'd be living now if she hadn't been disabled. But she isn't, and that's that. It isn't, of course, but there isn't much I can do about it.

And meanwhile lots to celebrate. A good recovery from surgery. Positive progress reports on both girls - some hiccups and complications but some exciting things too.

Twelve months ago I set out to write something that would be mildly entertaining, hopefully show that life with my girls and their friends isn't all doom and gloom, and that I am neither angel nor perfectly patient and organised at all times. It's become more than that; I hope it still manages its first mission statement though. Here's to next year!

Friday 15 August 2008

The problem with sunny days

is that they make for cold nights and chilly mornings.

I'm not really complaining though

Thursday 14 August 2008

A Day in My Life

It's the 14th again, so Jenny is hosting A Day in My Life again.

We're not at home today. And, it isn't raining!

The day technically started far too early, at 1AM, when Mog decided she needed attention.

Thankfully though she did settle back down again eventually and we had a bit of peace until both girls woke up at 6.30. Far too nice a morning to waste staying in the tent trying to get back to sleep again, so we went outside to admire the morning sun.

Sadly Mog was really not happy this morning, so after a long hour of utter misery finally her painkillers kicked in, and she went back to the tent for a rest
Whilst Little Fish spent some time setting out the chairs for the other campers
and I made use of possibly the world's cleanest campsite bathroom.

Across the site little groups like thiswere sitting around enjoying being togetherand having fun making new friends.

Now some people have mastered the art of relaxingand others prefer to stay busy.
Some people in a big truck arrived and pitched this marqueeready for the Special Kids in the UK annual family day. And some husbands put together a smaller versionso that they wouldn't get bored sitting around doing nothing incase the forecast rain for Saturday doesn't put people off coming for the day.

We spent the afternoon doing nothing enjoying each others' company and laughing at people on the space hoppers . Balls featured quite heavily in the day's activitiesJust as all that rest was starting to get a little too comfortable much, thispulled up outside the tents, with plenty of space for all the children, including those in wheelchairs, to have a ride. Fun times!The train dropped us off back at our tents in time to cook tea

Chicken supreme. Tasty... Although one day I will remember to bring something to strain the rice. Time to do the washing up
and then maybe a spot of light readingas some of our friends failed to play with the space hoppers againAnd then suddenly it was way past the girls' bedtime once again. Pyjamas and cardigans and vests, sleeping bags and blankets and more blankets. Now Little Fish is sleeping sweetly. Mog, having finally woken up properly on the train ride, is now grizzling quietly at my side, resisting sleep with every fibre of her being. Matt Redman is playing quietly in the tent; she's not overly impressed but prefers it to silence and I forgot to pack any of her other music.

Outside older children are playing quietly with glowsticks and poi, smaller children are in bed or not in bed but need to be , adults are chatting and finishing up later meals, mellowing quietly as barbecue coals die down. Slowly over the course of the day the field has filled with more tents, and tomorrow even more friends are expected, ready for 200 visitors on Saturday itself.

From my spot in the tent, facing the girls with my back to the circle of friends behind me I can see two small heads peeking out from sleeping bags and a pile of clutter , and the silhouette of tall trees from the tent's skylight. I can hear the hiss of the gas lamp, Mog's breathing which has thankfully switched from gentle grizzle to snore, and the wheeze pant of Little Fish's ventilator. I can't honestly say that the ventilator is a noise from my own childhood, but the gas lamp's hiss is definitely a sound I have fallen asleep to for many years' family holidays.

It's not a bad life.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Of seats and staying home.

Life with Little Fish becomes infinitely more bearable and even enjoyable if we are able to leave the house on a regular basis. Inside, she is a vortex of destruction. Outside she becomes interested in the world around, friendly greeter of strangers and suspicious starer at dogs. So we aim to spend as much of the holiday outside as possible.

It was unfortunate then that yesterday we needed to stay in all day to take delivery of this:
This will be Little Fish's new stationary seat for eating at tables. I was told it was a "nice little chair". I remain unconvinced. It definitely doesn't compare to our first choice, a Samba. Ah well. It's a Jenx Bee and I'm sure someone somewhere loves it. The rep will be out to fit it for her at some point in September, until then it can join our ocean of clutter stockpile of temporarily unuseable equipment.

The house meanwhile has suffered for our presence. Our cleaner quit on us on the first week of the school holidays - sensible lady. We have a temporary replacement who is very useful but does not have the same cleanability that our previous one had -having run a successful large B and B for many years she had gained the ability to give everything the "once over" in double quick time.*

As we waited in for yesterday's delivery we took a phone call. Mog's new off-roader was ready and would be delivered today. Excellent, another day sitting at home. Just what we needed. It's a bit prettier than the Bee though. And we could definitely have done with it last week - I've not had to de-mud a wheelchair with a pair of tentpegs before.

To this general clutter add the contents of a wet camping trip. Those nine loads of laundry scattered across the sunroom. Damp bags and stoves etc steaming gently in the kitchen, soggy tins rusting drying out before being replaced in the bus. Umpteen towels draped and drying. Add to this yesterday's washing up, and various assorted bits of extra chaos.

Take one large cardboard box and umpteen bits of packaging. Spread liberally across the hallway, combine with one child testing out the buggy and a second smaller child doing what she can to help by emptying drawers.

Hear one knock at the door, and open it in anticipation of our temporary cleaner/laundrywoman extraordinaire/children's entertainer. Instead discover one physiotherapist with a forgotten appointment.


* We love you S and this is not in any way a criticism of the things you do; my house would be drowning in crisps and laundry if it weren't for you!

Monday 11 August 2008

Worming the Cat

A long time ago, I had a kitten*. I called her Sadie. She lived with me in my flat, until I changed jobs, at which point she went to live with my parents. I'd like to introduce you to her now.
She'd shake you by the hand, but she needs it for support. This cat needs a caption.

Sadie is not the kindest nor the gentlest of cats. Getting her into the cat box requires boxing gloves dexterity; getting her out of the cat box at the vets requires life insurance and chain mail great bravery.

There are standard tricks for getting our feline friends to swallow pills. My cat Henry would simply take them like an extra treat, swallow them down and come back for more. Pussy needed forcing encouraging, but wouldn't fight too hard; a gentle upwards stroke against her throat would stimulate a swallow and that would be that**.

Sadie will have none of that. I can wrap a cat. Give me a large towel, and I can momentarily mummify the majority of moggies , immobilising them long enough to force the pill between clenched jaws***, do the upwards "you WILL swallow"stroke, and sending the pill stomachwards. Sadie shreds towels. and hands.

Sadie needed a course of antibiotics a few years ago, and I called on a friend, sister of a vet nurse for advice. Up the phone line went the request, down the line came the response "Marmite". Crush the pill, mix it with Marmite, plaster it on the cat's paw. The cat will lick the paw clean, enjoy the taste of the Marmite, and rather handily finish off the pill at the same time. The suggestion worked well a few years ago; well it did until I ran out of Marmite and tried to use honey instead. Sadie was not impressed and let the wallpaper know all about it (yes parents, that is where that mark in the sitting room comes from). But as long as I stuck to Marmite, all was well.

So, Mum and Dad invited the girls and I to lunch yesterday. We arrived and I was handed a large worming tablet for Sadie's refusal delectation. Telling them the story of our Marmite success, I crushed the pill and mixed it. For reasons best known to themselves, Mum and Dad keep their Marmite (which they themselves never eat) in the 'Fridge. This sets it solid. As any Marmite fan will know, a faint trace of goo is all one needs. This is impossible to achieve with 'fridged Marmite. So I scooped out a spoonful and mixed it with the worming tablet. Looking and feeling rather smug at this point, I grabbed Sadie who had come to say hello, and offered her the teaspoon of Marmite. She was not impressed, so I smeared half a spoonful over her front paw. Even less impressed; Sadie shook her foot, and the Marmite which, if warm, would have stuck firmly to her paw instead careened off her foot and in a gentle arc across the kitchen, splattering fetchingly across Mum's shirt. Two large gobs also landed up hanging from Sadie's whiskers.

Sadie retreated to the garden to wash her paws, Mum threw her shirt into a bucket of bleach. Sadie returned for comfort after the wicked nasty Tia person had smeared her with Marmite. Instead of comfort, I continued to smear her with Marmite - one teaspoonful goes a long way when spread across a cat's paws. It may have been quicker to use the butter knife, but I suspect Sadie might have had a go at stabbing me with it.

Mum's shirt was transferred from bleach to soapy water, and we enjoyed a good meal. Sadie returned to forgive Mum and Dad and to try to eat the remains of the gammon keep her eye on me incase I did anything else evil. I scrubbed more Marmite off the kitchen floor.

We drank coffee, the girls enjoyed fruit crumble and custard and good company. Mum took her shirt out of the soapy water, wrung it out thoroughly and laid it on the work surface, ready to hang out, having checked that all traces of Marmite had been thoroughly removed.

Such a shame that she chose to lay it down on the bit of work surface where the coffee had been poured. Some people just shouldn't wear white shirts - I think it's genetic.

Sadie needs three more pills; we've left the Marmite out of the 'fridge and I hope it works less messily for Mum and Dad than it did yesterday. Even with the mess, still easier than trying to wrap her. And probably equally entertaining for anyone watching.

Meanwhile Dad went out to mow the lawn at the back of the house and somehow managed to blow the electric circuits at the front of the house without affecting those in the middle. I'm sure that's a fairly clever trick too.


*When I say I had a kitten, I didn't actually give birth to said kitten. But I visited her when she was teeny tiny, and brought her home with me when she was old enough to leave her mother, who was in fact a cat.

**This technique also works with children. Don't ask me how I know.

***To force a pill between clenched jaws, gently slide a finger inside one cheek to the back of the teeth then wiggle slightly to loosen the grip. This is a technique I learnt first with children. It's important to be calm and gentle when doing this. When the object clenched between the child's jaws is in fact another of your fingers, this is not always easy. But the additional pain caused by the panicked over clenching which shouting causes is really not worth it****.

****The jawbones of both cats and children can and do break. Don't sue me if this happens to you. Soft and gentle and slow. Or Marmite. I've not tried Marmite against a child's bite before but how much worse could it get?*****

*****Don't answer that.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Like a Fish to Water?

It actually stopped raining for a couple of days towards the end of the week. Only the days; our nights were still filled with the gentle pitter patter of clouds leaking and refilling our puddles. But the days were fine enough at least for us to sit in not too muddy patches of grass and enjoy the occasional barbecue or other external meal.

Little Fish decided to help with the washing up.
It started well. But then
Where's the washing up bowl, Little Fish?

C and I decided it was something to do with that dress. Here's what happened on its first outing. I don't think it's made it through a full day since. The dress just attracts water.

We decided to come home a day early, missing the evening celebration on the Saturday and instead left after the family celebration. Which was full of a children's choir, many children's workers, and these fine Masai Warriors, who sang some praise songs whilst leaping straight up and down as if on invisible pogo sticks. Very, very cool, and very freeing somehow - all 4,500 people in the tent were dancing with them.
A great way to finish the week.

C and I took the tents down in the rain. This was less fun. We dripped. The canvas filled with pools of water as we attempted to fold it. The bag filled with water as it sat open waiting for the sodden canvas. The poles sent rivers of water down our arms as we folded them, the tentpegs brought small seas of mud with them as we pulled them out of the ground. The groundsheets contained slugs and sludge.

We were wet.
Very wet.

Thankfully, the girls had been at Our Place and beautifully sheltered throughout this process. So when we arrived at the celebration, it was with two clean and dry grinning girls and two wet, soggy, muddy lumps of adulthood. We must have looked pretty pathetic - they gave us vouchers for free hot drinks before the celebration started. Score!

A very wet drive home, a soggy steaming van full of smelly things (and that was just us; the girls and washing etc were even worse), and now 24 hours later I am about halfway through the laundry mountain. The bus is nearly empty, the tent is drying nicely thanks to Mum and Dad, and I should have some time to process some of the more serious aspects of the conference shortly.

On a slightly more serious note, Hazel has posted an interesting response to GAFCON. It's the blog entry titled "These and other affairs". I'm still not sure what my own response to GAFCON is; I'm still not sure what the response of our church will be, and not entirely sure whether my own response will be in line with my church or not. Or whether that matters. Or not. For anyone else following the GAFCON/Lambeth/general Anglican renewal/revival/review/return/revision/anything else beginning with r or otherwise; I'd welcome thoughts and comments. And I am sure Martin and Hazel would too.

Mog's music has run out; I need to change it and drug her, move some laundry around the house and maybe think about having something for tea. We brought eggs back from New Wine, Mum has delivered more of them too; I feel an omelette coming on.


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